My boss’ expectations haven’t changed despite me home schooling. What do I do?


Each week, Dr Kirstin Ferguson tackles questions on the workplace, career and leadership in her advice column “Got a minute?” This week, struggling with the demands of being a parent and full-time worker in lockdown, fighting for a job after redundancy, and going curly at work.

Illustration: Dionne Gain

Illustration: Dionne GainCredit:

I work full-time with two children learning from home, and I am really struggling. Senior Australia-based leaders in our company are being very open about their similar struggles, however, my overseas manager is tone-deaf and despite raising my issues with him, he expects me to deliver my full slate of work. No one else in the team has young kids, so don’t have quite the same pressures. I’m usually very high energy and incredibly motivated but I am absolutely exhausted. How on earth do I navigate this without falling in a heap?

Your struggle is real, so I am not at all surprised to hear you are exhausted. What I am surprised to hear is that you have a boss who can be so lacking in self-awareness and empathy as to not realise nor ask how you are coping.

Irrespective of your boss’ personal situation or geographic location, there is literally no excuse for leaders not understanding that in this pandemic, we all have different experiences and different ways of being able to meet our work commitments. Your boss clearly has no awareness of what it’s like to have young children schooling at home while working a full-time job.

I am so cranky on your behalf. For your wellbeing (and sanity) in finding a way forward, is there another, more empathetic, senior leader in your company who you can talk to for advice?

To anyone reading this who leads others, please understand that right now the greatest gift you can give your team members – to also build trust and loyalty – is to simply say, “it’s OK”. It’s OK not to get that crucial bit of work done. It’s OK to put your family first. It’s OK to miss that meeting because your kids just had a meltdown in the kitchen.

Until then, to you dear reader, hang in there. We are all thinking of you and standing alongside you as things hopefully improve.

I’m in the process of being made redundant and five of us are fighting for two positions. My employer tried to get rid of me earlier this year via a performance improvement plan, where I was given two warnings about sub-satisfactory performance within the first two weeks of a three-month plan. I do not want to stay with a company that treats people this way but jobs in middle management are hard to come by. Do you think I should bother applying for the new role?

There is a lot to unpack here, so let me try and make sure I understand this correctly. You sound unhappy in your role and your employer sounds unhappy with you. You are now going through a Hunger Games type scenario to fight it out for limited positions in a company you don’t like and for an employer you don’t trust.